#pubnow: 9 questions for Sophie Sampson [INTERVIEW]

Sophie Sampson
Sophie Sampson is just about to take the stage at Publishing Now 2011, Justina Semetaite has a few questions for her…

You are an award-winning, established game maker and writer. Which of your achievements make you feel proud of your own work?

It might sound cheesy, but seeing people have fun and learn more about the world through things I’ve made continues to be brilliant. Working on Battle of Hastings, where I could see both the fun and the learning in action was really rewarding.


It is quite an unusual profession to choose. What has led you to this decision

Like many people in the game industry I fell into it backwards after years of doing something else. In my case this was copywriting, and creative research for advertising and film directors. I did the same for a game and found that working within the constraints of game design really suits my brain.


Some people are rather sceptical about the whole culture of gaming and believe it’s a waste of time. Do you see your work as a commercial product or a piece of art?

Neither. I’m a designer rather than an artist, and I make games that do things. One of the things games are great at is reframing the world in new ways, which is a power you can use for good or evil. I like to think I use it for good.


Has the game industry been touched by the rapid technological changes? If yes, in what way?

In some ways, clearly yes. The work I’ll be talking about on Saturday simply wouldn’t have been accesible a mainstream audience until maybe a year ago when smartphone penetration started to reach critical mass. But the core of what underlies games – systems of rules working together – remains the same. Fun is still fun whether it’s on paper or digital.


Where do you look for inspiration?

Heavens, all over. I am curious about the world and all the things in it. But this week it’s been interactive theatre, novels, how people move round museums, biology and poker.


Do you have golden rules that apply to whatever you’re working on?

Find the nugget. By which I mean that when you’re making something, start with the simplest possible thing that encapsulates the idea and then think about complexity. Much more robust as a process than having a giant idea and then trying to make it all work at once.


Do your creations have certain patterns typical of you, or do you like to do something and then move on?

We all have patterns, but I’m very happy applying them to new types of experience and platforms.


Are you ever completely satisfied with your work?

Getting things out the door is always hard, and I can usually find things I’d like to do differently next time – that’s how you know you’re getting better at what you do.


What do you think the future holds for digital creators?

We’ll get better at uniting digital and physical things – at the moment they are mostly two separate worlds and there’s a lot of friction if you try to pass between them. Lots of interesting people are working on how to make the transition seamless. I’m thinking of Berg’s Little Printer, Makie Lab’s dolls, @twrbrdg_itself.

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